Unsere Caster Daniel „cip" Meyer und Björn „Anathema" Siebrands hatten die Gelegenheit den Senior Game Designer Kaeo Milker und den Lead Balance Designer David Kim von Starcraft 2 zu einem exklusiven Interview auf der gamescom 2012 zu treffen. Neben Fragen zur Singleplayer-Kampagne, konnten die beiden auch Details zum Multiplayer von StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm und aktuellen Balancing in Erfahrung bringen.
In entspannter Atmosphäre sprachen die beiden Blizzard Entwickler unter anderem über die Zukunft des Carriers, ihre persönlichen Lieblingseinheiten in Heart of the Swarm und gaben einen interessanten Einblick in den Entwicklungsprozess von neuen Einheiten. Vor allem der Tempest, das neue Kapitalschiff der Protoss, wurde in Hinsicht auf die zukünftige Rolle im Schlachtfeld diskutiert. Außerdem präsentierte Kaeo Milker die Entscheidungsfreiheiten in der Kampagne, was sowohl erforschbare Upgrades angeht, als auch Story-Elemente betrifft. Dazu erläuterte Kaeo die Rolle und Entwicklung der „Königin der Klingen" im Verlauf der Singleplayer Kampagne im kommenden Addon von StarCraft 2.
Alle, die sich nach dem aktuellen Patch 1.5 auch schon die Frage gestellt haben, ob das Pingen auf der Minimap absichtlich schwieriger geworden ist, bekommen im anschließenden Video-Interview die Antwort. Ebenso erfahrt ihr, ob der im Situation-Report angedeutete Patch für Raven und Creep-Tumore tatsächlich umgesetzt wird.
Die Frage zum Release von Heart of the Swarm durfte natürlich auch nicht fehlen.
Kim: Hi, my name is David Kim, I'm a Game Designer on the StarCraft 2 development team.
Milker: Hi, I'm Kaeo Milker, I'm a Senior Game Producer on StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm.
Gaming Insight: We`ve been playing HotS here at gamescom quite a bit and love it. We noticed some changes since the MLG Anaheim build. What are the most important changes to game balance compared to Anaheim and why did you make them?
Kim: Since MLG we’ve changed a lot of the Heart of the Swarm game. And some of the tweeks that we made are: The Mothership Core - We had a problem, internally, of it being a new unit, we put so much effort into it. It’s a full caster, but it doesn’t feel like a new unit, because it is attached to the nexus in this current build. We changed it, so that it moves at a very slow speed. In doing this change there is some stuff that we have to watch out for. So for example, if air to air distance is a little to close between you and your opponent, the Mothership Core can actually be used easily as an offensive unit. So there is some stuff that we are watching carefully, but at the same time we do want it feeling like a unit. And if it moves then it kind of does feel like a new unit, so that’s why we changed that.
And another thing that we changed was the Battlecruiser. We actually have a speed upgrade ability. So if you use this ability, you get a speed boost for like 8 seconds. And we felt that kinda takes away from what the unit is. Because, I think, the Battlecruisers three most significant features are slow movement speed, high durability and high damage. So instead of just changing it to a different unit, we decided to keep the speed as it is, so it’s his weakness. But we upped the damage, so that the Battlecruiser is actually a stronger weapon when in combat, but it still has a downside of not being able to run away not being able to get to places easily and so on.
Gaming Insight: What's your take on the current multiplayer balance? Do you feel like Terran needs to be buffed and how likely is it that the changes to the Raven and the Creep Tumors will make it into the game?
Kim: The current state of balance we think is pretty good. And the Patch - We released the Situation Report last week saying we’re thinking of doing a Raven patch and a Creep Tumor nerf. But what’s funny is, right up to that point, when we decided to test out that change, Zergs were really dominating tournaments. But right when our post went out, maybe a couple weeks before then, Zergs struggled a little bit. So that kinda changed. So what we’re going to do is, actually, we’re going to take our time to really decide what’s going on right now in order to make sure that those changes are correct. And if they’re not, then we’re not gonna release that patch or do some other minor tweaks to other areas of the game.
Gaming Insight: What is your personal favorite new unit in HotS and why?
Kim: I guess my favourite unit right now in Heart of the Swarm - I think it keeps changing as we polish every unit. But right now I think the Swarm Host is pretty fun to use. And the reason for that is, because the Swarm Host is very unique in that there’s nothing like it in Wings of Liberty. Because the Swarm Host keeps generating free units over and over. There is some cool stuff you can do. You can actually combo it with fast movement speed units such as the hydralisk. So you can use free waves of locusts to tank for your hydralisks, which are very fragile. And now with the speed upgrade, you can easily maneuver it back, when the Locusts are dead. So you actually lost nothing, while killing some units of his. And you just keep repeating that process over and over, wearing down the enemy. And I think that’s just a fun new add to multiplayer.
Milker: I don’t wanna make it sound like we’re all about Zerg, but I’m actually kind of in love with the Viper right now. Abduct is such an awesome ability to use and I’m really looking forward to it. Because I’m not a David Kim level player at all. So I’m really looking forward to seeing the Viper at the pro level and sitting at a BarCraft and have that moment where just the perfect abduct is pulled off and everyone is screaming and that’s something I’m really really looking forward to.
Gaming Insight: How many new units were created in the development process of HotS that will never see the light of day?
Kim: We actually tried a lot of units. It’s hard to keep count how many we scrapped, but one example of a new unit is - When we came up with new units we tried to make sure that we’re either filling a gap that’s existing in Wings of Liberty or it’s a completely new thing that people aren’t really used to. So one example is, in Wings of Liberty, all the harass units in the game go for the worker line. They never go for your stack, the enemies army. So we wanted to introduce a new unit, that kinda harasses that stack, but doesn’t really function well in combat. So what we had was a type of a missile launcher unit at the factory. So this missile launcher had a weapon and had one ability on a longer cooldown, like a one minute or two minutes cooldown. You can use that ability anywhere on the map. And what it does is, it fires a missile at that location and the enemy has to move away. If not, he takes a lot of damage. So the problem with this obviously was that of course enemies will go for your peon line if you can shoot it anywhere on the map or it’s gonna go for key structures, such as Spires, Pylons powering multiple Gateways and so on. So we excluded those two things and it kinda felt weird because it’s a missile that fires, and it lands, but it does zero damage to workers, which made like no sense. So that was problematic. And the second problem was that it’s pretty much a nuke against that enemy army. So we already had that in the game. But when we were first thinking of the concept of the unit, because it’s like a missile launcher that shoots a missile, it didn’t really relate to the Ghost, but mechanically it kinda did. So those are the reasons why it got cut.
So we just have a bunch of units that we just try and that sound kinda cool on paper, but not really. So it’s really important for us to really test the units that we have in game and all the units that are here in gamescom are actually pretty good for the beta. But of course, if there are problems with those units, then we will take measures to either cut, improve or fine-tune those units during the beta.
Gaming Insight: When creating new units, do you start by looking at a races weakness or do you start with a concept of a cool looking or behaving unit?
Kim: When we create a new unit, it’s process is usually, people on the team or specifically on the Multiplayer Design Team, we just usually come up with an idea. And if for example, I have an idea, I will bring it up with our team and someone will say: “That sucks because of this, but what if we did something else instead?”, right? We kind of brainstorm together and kind of polish, even from the brainstorming stages. So even if one idea came from some person. It kind of gets molded among everyone, beause everyone kind of contributes a little bit. The final unit, that we actually put into the game is a lot different than the initial idea. It is just a process of polishing the idea and then we put it in and polish it by playing also. And if it passes through all this stages, then you see the unit like you do here at gamescom.
Gaming Insight: Getting to the Singleplayer for a moment: In Wings of Liberty, the player had lots of choices, in regards to both the technology he wants to develop and sometimes what missions he wants to do next, shaping the story with it. Compared to WoL, how many choices will we have in HotS?
Milker: We definitly spent a lot of time in WoL trying to provide a lot of player-options. Everything from the tech-purchases that we had and mercenaries that you can purchase. When we went to HotS we really wanted to carry some of those ideas forward, but put a new kind of zerg-spin on them: First of all we have Kerrigan playable on almost all of the 20 missions in HotS. So she is leveling up as you play through the campaign and she is gaining new abilities, that you can kind of pick and choose, as you are playing through the campaign. So you got a lot of variety there on her.
But on the army side we actually let you individually kind of upgrade and modify each unit in the zerg swarm. So you have got everything from the zergling to the Ultralisk in your evolution chamber and you are able to select them individually and as you unlock certain abilities you can get individual upgrades.
And then ultimately there is actually a unit split, where you can choose from for every unit as well. Things like on the baneling you get to choose to be a splitterling, which is a baneling, which once it explodes two smaller banelings are spawned and then they go on to do additional damage versus the Raptor, which is a baneling, that can leap over things and then detonate. So each unit you get to make that kind of choices. So cool upgrades, and then really cool split and then actually visual change as well as getting really unique new features. And of course there’s all sort of crazy stuff that we never could do at multiplayer, but we get to go to town in the campaign and really provide a lot of interesting gameplay like that.
Gaming Insight: Is the storyline for Legacy of the Void already done?
Milker: So do we know what’s gonna happen in Legacy of the Void? When we sat down and began working on StarCraft 2, we definitely knew the overarching story that we wanted to tell. So the general outline of where that’s going is definitely established, but as we get to each chapter in the trilogy, we’re able to kind of decide how we wanna flesh out the in-between of those major plot points. Obviously we’re completely focused on HotS right now. We’re in the final development stages, polishing it up. Adding all of our final Blizzard touches to it. Putting easter egg right now in, actually. And while we’re doing that stuff, we’re able to - through the missions - decide what kind of extra stuff we wanna add on to that core story that we’re trying to tell.
Gaming Insight: In patch 1.5 there are a number of small changes to the interface and the gameplay that may feel uncomfortable at first, like not being able to ping the minimap by holding alt and left clicking and Batttlnet defaulting to 4v4 when another player joins your party. Are these kinds of changes intentional and if so what was the rationale behind them?
Milker: So patch 1.5 is actually the largest patch we’ve ever done. It actually was really kind of a snapshot of Swarm development. We were really trying to get a lot of features that we were adding for Swarm, getting them in earlier. Namely our Arcade we wanted to get out as early as we could, so that map makers could have really cool tools to help them publicise their maps. We added the open games list that people really wanted for a long time. We let people rate maps and sort them by things like “top played” and “highest rated” and things like that. A lot of the UI features that you see in patch 1.5 are kind of the gateway to what we’re gonna do for Swarm. So I think some people just from the nature of change initially we’re just kind of taken aback by that “Something’s changed!”. But you know this is all kind of part of what we’re trying to accomplish on the way to Swarm. So there’s a lot more features that we’re gonna build on top of those UI changes. You’re describing some changes to the way partys were joined, groups going to 4v4. I think some of that is some inadvertent stuff that we are immediately listening to feedback on. We were actually in beta for patch 1.5 for about 3 months. So there’s a lot of things that we were trying to sort out, because it was a lot of changes. We’ve patched twice again since 1.5 went live. And we will continue doing so if we find some of those things that either aren’t feeling that great or that we could improve upon.
Gaming Insight: With the recent change to the Carrier are you still going to remove this iconic unit in HotS? Is it possible for the Carrier to make a comeback in LotV?
Kim: The carrier is actually removed right now. There’s two main reasons. One is the Carrier is a unit that is not used very frequently in WoL. Second is, we introduced the tempest, which is a very similar unit to the Carrier, but we feel like in our internal play test games, that it’s just doing everything that the Carrier does, but a little better. The Carrier’s damage doesn’t really counter a lot of things for cost. So the strength is, it’s just an all-around unit against everything, that’s pretty decent, but not amazing. That’s exactly what the Tempest is. Tempest actually have an upgrade to increase their range to 22, which is a pretty crazy range. It’s not the final number. So we have this new unit that’s sort of like the Carrier, but better. So that’s the main reason, why we decided to remove the Carrier. At the same time we are seeing Carriers, especially in the Protoss versus Zerg matchups in the late game these days. So it’s not a final decision. We’re gonna go into beta without the Carrier, that’s the current decision. But that doesn’t mean the Carrier is gone forever. And we’re still discussing ways to kind of either improve it or put it back into the game. There are just a lot of possibilities, but we are just discussing internally on what the best move is here.
Gaming Insight: How do you feel about the Tempest? Do you think it will be able to make Colossus-wars in PvP less frequent and hold it’s own versus an Infestor Brood Lord type Zerg army?
Kim: We feel like the Tempest is gonna be a very strategic add in the sense that if the enemy doesn’t have air units out, you can actually harass from above zero ground and there’s nothing that can actually kill the Tempest. In terms of that, there’s going to be a lot of strategic limits. Or on the flip side, if you use it with your army, if you protect your Tempests and poke at the enemy, you kill a siege tank off here and there, the enemy is gonna feel pressured to push into you, which means you can fight at a more favourable position of the terrain. And like you said, it will hopefully really help against mass Colossus versus mass Colossus in the very late game PvP.
And I think the other big problem in PvP is, in the early game there is so many all-ins that you can do. In the last GSL we saw Seed vs MC the whole set of best of seven finishing in like 30 minutes or something crazy. We’re hoping that the Mothership Core actually solves that issue. So we think with the Mothership Core solving the early game issue and hopefully Tempest solving the late game issue, we feel like Protoss versus Protoss will be a lot more solid in HotS.
Gaming Insight: Can you tell us something about the release date of the Beta or HotS itself?
Milker: So how close are we to actually finishing HotS? We are actually in the very final stages right now of polishing HotS. On the campaign side, all the missions are done, we’re basically just tuning difficulty on it. Like I said, adding that final level of Blizzard polish, that we’re so famous for. All those little details and like I said easter eggs and fun stuff like that that we’re putting into it. On the multiplayer side we’re actively working on locking down the balance to get a beta build together. And once we have that, we’ll go into beta. And the beta process will take as much time as we need to kind of make sure that the multiplayer balance and the units are where they need to be. And once we’re feeling confident that things are set for esports and for people to start playing, we’ll solidify a release date and announce it.